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Final Fantasy X HD Remaster Soundtrack Review

by April 10, 2014 0 comments

Last month saw the release of the anticipated Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. Amongst the visual updates Square-Enix also decided to have composers Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano overhaul their own as well as Nobuo Uematsu’s tracks for the first installment in the collection.
The soundtrack initially received mixed reactions from fans due to the changes made to tracks beloved by many.
Are the changes actually bad? That is of course subjective, but here are my two cents as a non-musical person stumbling their way through a soundtrack review, pointing out a few tracks that stood out to me.

For the most part, the new arrangements are just aimed at improving the sound quality instead of trying to do anything daring or experimental.
“To Zanarkand” for example has been pretty much preserved in its simple beauty but now comes along with a much more natural, less synthesized piano sound.
The new “Prelude” seems to have gotten a few more layers of synth beats and instruments, making this already quite upbeat and bouncy version of the Prelude sound even livelier and more energetic. Apart from that, the basic arrangement remains the same.

“Run!!” is one of my favorites of the new arrangements. It emphasizes the drums a lot more and improves the sound of the strings, adding more tension and a sense of urgency than before. There is a new element at the 1:30 mark when the track loops, with the brass rising from low to high notes, creating a sort of “climax” to the track.

Songs like “Tidus’s Theme”, “Spira Unplugged” and “Mi’ihen Highroad” add more natural sounding instruments like acoustic guitars and flutes, improving the quality of the original PS2 synth sound.
“Luca” adds a saxophone element that wasn’t there before.

“Jecht’s Theme” seems to have gone fully acoustic whereas I recall the original having combined acoustic guitar and a synth bass. It now sounds more “country” than ever.

Then there’s the “Battle Theme” which initially came across as a bit of a mess to me. It sounds more orchestral now, but initially felt somewhat overloaded in an attempt to make it more “epic”. Either this was rectified since the first samples have been released or I have gotten used to it as it doesn’t seem too jarring anymore. In fact, the original version now sounds a bit outdated to my ears.

The boss battle theme on the other hand I can’t get used to. The beginning section of the song seems to put the strings into the foreground now, which completely alters the feel of it. It seems to lack the punch it previously had. Thankfully, the rest of the arrangement is fine.

The new version of “Besaid” is one of the most heavily changed and I’m still having mixed feelings about it. The original was faster paced and more upbeat, while the Remaster version goes for a slower, more serene and string-heavy tone.
While the arrangement itself is no doubt quite beautiful, I’m not a fan of how it changes the atmosphere on Besaid entirely.

Yuna dancingThe e-guitar in “Blitz Off” sounds a lot more dynamic. I’m not sure if this was played on an actual e-guitar but it definitely sounds less artificial than before.
“Auron’s Theme” sounds better than ever with the new prominent e-bass guitar sound.

Songs like “Assault”, “Servants of the Mountain” and “Someday the Dream Will End” luckily make no major changes to the arrangement other than giving them the epic and emotional orchestral sounds they deserve. A clear step up from the already brilliant originals.

“Fight With Seymour” is a bit of a mixed bag for me. While I’m not too fond of the beginning replacing the choir with a more typical keyboard synth sound, I do like the e-guitars at the 1:15 mark more than the original version.

The arrangements of “Via Purifico” and “Beyond the Darkness” feature actual piano performances with the latter including live string performances as well, elevating the quality quite a bit. Curiously, these are not new but instead taken from the FFX Piano Collections and Masashi Hamauzu’s solo album “Vielen Dank”, respectively.

Of the few pieces that remained unaltered, I wish “The Trials” had received a makeover to make it, well, less annoying. Apart from that, the unaltered tracks are mostly minor, variations of the Hymn of the Fayth, the vocal tracks and the superb Ending Theme.

Overall I feel like the new soundtrack is a definite improvement over the original, updating the music while preserving the melodies of the originals, with only a few exceptions venturing into a slightly more experimental territory. The amount of effort that has been put into the FFX/X-2HD Remasters not only visually but also musically is worthy of praise even though it doesn’t quite reach the levels of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD’s fully orchestrated and re-recorded soundtrack.
Only hardcore purists will probably be disappointed in the lack of the original OST’s originally planned inclusion.

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